One of the highlights of the beauty calendar for makeup obsessives is the reveal of the Estee Lauder Limited Edition Compacts.
The brand began producing these beautiful, sought-after, one-off designs in 1967. Every year, the themed collection is picked up by fans who ponder its exquisite details. Previous themes included zodiac signs, lucky charms, and aquatic life.
This year it's Disney Princesses, each ornately decorated compact costing between £ 200 and £ 350, depicting scenes from films like The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Frog, and Beauty and the Beast.
If you're amazed that such a sophisticated product should have come down such a childish path, it shouldn't be. These kinds of things seem to have become the beauty industry's trade inventory.
Estee Lauder has released a number of Disney compacts when it comes to movies, including The Little Mermaid (left) for £ 350 and Sleeping Beauty (right) for £ 200
The use of childlike designs like Estee Lauder's Beauty and The Beast collection (pictured) has led beauty companies to ask questions about their motivations
This year alone, MAC worked with Barbie to develop products that were developed in collaboration with strong women like Rihanna, Linda Evangelista and Mariah Carey. The Italian brand Kiko launches its Wonder Woman line. Barry M produces a Harry Potter make-up range; and Ciate from London reveals his Miss Piggy eyeshadow, lipsticks, blush and more.
Do these cute collections just appeal to our sense of nostalgia? Or does something more sinister happen?
"One way the beauty industry is selling products to women is to make them feel like they're not good enough," says psychologist Dr. Martina Paglia who has worked with young people and women with body dysmorphism.
“And one of the ways you can make a woman feel like she isn't good enough is to make her feel like she isn't young enough. In our society, youth is equated with beauty. & # 39;
She suggests that these childhood characters be marketed to adult women because there is a subliminal association: if you are still playing with dolls or watching cartoons, there is no way you can be old, so you still have to be young and consequently beautiful .
"They urge you to identify with someone younger because it implicitly makes you appear more attractive," she says.
MAC has also reinstated Barbie in its advertising for women (pictured) to increase sales
This helps explain why so many beauty products look like they belong in kindergarten rather than the bathroom. Revolution and GlamGlow are among many skin care brands that sell glitter face masks.
And look for the term "unicorn" on the online beauty salon Lookfantastic. com and you will find 30+ different products even though the site is sold to adult women and neither glitter nor unicorns play a functional role in beauty.
However, according to some industry representatives, we take this all too seriously. Beauty is supposed to be fun and carefree, experimental and creative, and we should stop being so tense.
An Estee Lauder spokesperson said: "The limited edition Estee Lauder collaboration with Disney was designed to evoke nostalgia and celebrate iconic stories of strength, love and friendship, highlighting the princesses and moments in those stories that have been shared by generations have loved. "
The latest range from London-based Ciate was decorated with Miss Piggy's "love of color and shine" (picture).
MAC said: & # 39; MAC is a brand that reflects the cultural zeitgeist and serves as a beauty entry point for pop culture, art, music and fashion icons. The iconic pop culture animated characters are a perfect match for beauty as they evoke nostalgia and create a collectable moment for fans.
"If you look at our previous animated character collaborations, they all epitomize MAC's core ethos of confidence and individuality – from Barbie to Princess Jasmine in Disney's Aladdin live-action movie to the Troll Dolls."
Ciate Founder Charlotte Knight argues that her primary customer, ages 25 to 45, "comes to us for a quality product that feels creative and playful," and that recently from Miss Piggy's "love of color." and shine 'embossed range embodies a message of trust and self-love'.
The problem is, when you use cartoon characters to sell products to women, you are also attracting an entirely different consumer. Scientists have long argued that the downside of infantilizing women is to sexualize girls, and getting very young children interested in makeup is one way of sexualizing them.
The Italian brand Kiko recently launched its own Wonder Woman line (products shown).
Collections like the Harry Potter / Barry M series (pictured), which launched at the Harry Potter store this month, could be accused of targeting children
Dr. Paglia adds, “When you use characters attractive to children to sell makeup to adults, you can't help but get children interested in beauty and their looks at a much younger age than they otherwise would be . & # 39; And it's true.
I don't want Estee Lauder, MAC, or Kiko to be on my eight-year-old niece's radar, but when I walk her through a department store and she spots unicorns on a makeup stand, she's essentially being cared for by grooming cosmetic giants . This may be an unintended consequence, but you could argue that this is how the beauty industry is secretly marketing children and attracting them at an increasingly younger age.
Brands could claim that the positioning and pricing of these products means that they are not aimed at children. That argument falls apart, however, when you look at collections like the Harry Potter / Barry M range that were launched in the Harry Potter shop this month.
You can buy Luna Love-good nail polishes, eye shadows and lip glosses for £ 7.95 or less, or your Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw schoolhouses with compact mirrors (£ 7.95) and polish (£ 5.95) yours Show loyalty) and nail files (£ 3.95). It's part of a depressing trend – last year John Lewis and MAC promoted a "back-to-school mini-masterclass" on makeup for kids (canceled after a backlash) during this year's survey on attitudes of girls, the girls lead, this noted Eight out of ten girls ages 11-21 have considered changing their looks.
While the most common reasons were hoping that this would improve their confidence (55 percent) and make them feel better (54 percent), a third would do so to feel more accepted, which suggests that the beauty industry is doing it will provide immediate supply to customers in the next generation.
And while we see grooming products for men booming, the fact that this is about girls and women, not boys and men, is no accident.
Sam Farmer, who launched his self-titled youth skin care brand because he didn't like the gendered messages the personal care market sends to children, points out that male consumers are not subject to the same form of nostalgia marketing. "Bulldog doesn't make a limited-edition Superman razor," he says.
"Can you imagine Gillette or Nivea trying to sell skin care products to men with Kermit the Frog?" For me, that's the heart of it all. Women are expected to look good and care about how they look, but paradoxically, society mocks them for claiming makeup and skin care are topics that deserve interest or discussion.
Women and the beauty industry are already facing a serious battle, which is why the infantilization of women through the sale of products containing cartoons and toys is causing real harm. It reaffirms the view that all of this stuff is silly, frivolous, and forgiving.
And whether the brands admit it or not, cosmetics make it possible to sexualize young girls. Beauty can be therapeutic, life-affirming, and empowering, but this cynical, infantilizing approach undermines not only women, but the entire industry.
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